Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

You have two employees:

Employee one

The first is a natural at the job. They manage their workload well and always finish on time. The only criticism is they are not receptive to constructive feedback, specifically in terms of how things should be structured and done on an organisational level; the company has invested time into developing systems which they really want everyone to use. Having said this, employee one has their own way of doing things, and it works effectively.

Employee two

The second person is a different story. There were performance concerns from the outset: deadlines were not being met, straightforward systems and admin were becoming far too labour intensive, and rudimentary features of the role were being forgotten. At a critical point, management intervened. Employee two responded well to feedback and was prepared to work with the managerial team to improve their performance. A plan was drawn up and noticeable improvements were made. This is not to say it was an immediate success; there were times were employee two faltered but with reflection and constructive feedback, they arrived at the stage were candidate one started. Candidate two is now working effectively and autonomously.

In this hypothetical situation, which employee would you keep if you had to choose one?

It might seem intuitive to keep employee one but there are valid reasons why employee two might be better.

Employee two has gone through a process of learning. They faltered and failed and failed again. Throughout, they made incremental steps towards bettering their performance and shown to be invested in the process. Keen and willing to learn, employee two is malleable and understands that development involves learning.

Candidate one may be excellent in their current role, but there is no evidence of how they would fare if the job changed. There is an indication they are unwilling to take instruction or follow company processes, regardless of how well they might be doing their job. If pushed to change their behaviour, would they adapt in the same way as employee two or would they become uncooperative, falling back on their way of doing things?

Healthy organisations should be in a position to adapt to trends, but change requires flexibility and intransigence will likely damage a business. It goes without saying that organisational changes require evidence of their efficacy but in order to implement change, the workforce should be willing to adapt and follow processes.

When change happens, it would be rare for everyone to get it right the first time but there should be a desire to succeed and that can only happen with planning, feedback, and self-reflection.

If you have ever failed and received critical feedback from your line manager and used that experience to learn and improve, you might be ahead of the game more than you think.

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Title quote by Samuel Beckett.

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